Tramway, Glasgow, Sat 18 Oct
While its existence in any sort of visual medium is an artistic victory, the ambition of Derek Jarman’s Blue becomes most apparent when you discover that he drummed up money for the film by staging it as a series of live performances beforehand. So says Blue’s original soundtrack composer Simon Fisher Turner, who is presenting his own onstage reworking of the piece aspart of Glasgay! ‘It started off as a live project, completely,’ says Fisher. ‘It came from a script that Derek wrote when he was at university, which he then rewrote and changed the perspective on when he became ill. It was at this point that Brian Eno gave us the money to record the soundtrack.’
Released in 1993, Blue is an evocative sound collage of music and spoken word passages laid over a blue screen, made at a time when Jarman was HIV-positive and reflecting on his life up to that point. Four months after the release of the film he died of an AIDS-related illness, one symptom of which was, tragically, blindness. This new stage version incorporates a screening of the film and a live performance of the score by Turner and sound artist Black Sifichi.
‘Blue continues to be relevant,’ says Turner, whose own career previously involved teen acting stardom in the early 70s and a subsequent recording career for Mute and Creation Records. ‘People still get AIDS and die, and for me it’s turned into an almost pacifist message. It’s all about life, not death, it’s about kicking against the pricks and standing up for yourself. As a piece of writing it’s honest, it’s brutal and frank, and oddly humorous until everyone collapses weeping at the end – or at least that’s certainly how Black and I feel when we’re finished, as if we’ve been on a journey from life into death.’